Made in New England Series: Deena Jalal of FoMu Ice Cream
It’s no secret that New England is a hot spot for ice cream fanatics; in fact it ranks highest consumption of ice cream in the country. But local foodie Deena Jalal saw a gap in the market for scratch-made, artisanal, all natural ice cream made with real ingredients. When Deena started playing around with different flavor combinations, she fell in love with using coconut milk as the base, and shortly after FoMu was born, bringing plant-based vegan ice cream to the Boston area and beyond. We spoke with FoMu founder Deena to chat about her all-time favorite flavor, how they source their ingredients locally and the importance of knowing where your food comes from.
R.K: What made you start your brand? How did you first get the idea?
D.J: I love ice cream…simply put. I was always seeking out the best ice cream wherever I went. I realized that while Boston had an amazing group of emerging local food purveyors, we were lacking a truly scratch made, artisanal, all natural ice cream. I am a mom and a foodie, and wanted a great ice cream without all of the chemicals, antibiotics, or hormones.
R.K: How did it all begin? What was the first thing you did when starting off?
D.J: We learned all about ice cream from an industry vet and bought an old ice creamery. At the start, we weren’t even sure what we were going to make. Our only focus was real, thoughtfully sourced ingredients and super yummy ice cream. The more we worked with different ingredients and learned about their origins, we fell in love with coconut milk. You could churn it just like a traditional premium ice cream, add organic, real ingredients, and get an amazing product you felt good about. No GMO’s, no hormones, all real.
R.K? How do you source your ingredients?
D.J: Quality always comes first. We work with a lot of specialty distributors, local food purveyors, and local farms when we can. We make almost everything from scratch to ensure even sub ingredients and toppings reflect the same level of thoughtfulness. We chop real avocados, macerate fresh mint leaves, and zest whole lemons. Everything is real and everything is done the right way, not the easy way.
R.K: What’s your favorite flavor?
D.J: Blueberry Shortbread. Always and forever. It’s a tangy ice cream with scratch made wild blueberry compote, and homemade vanilla bean shortbread.
R.K: What did you have to learn the hard way? Any particular challenges along the way?
D.J: You can’t say yes to everything. I would love to have a menu of 30+ flavors and unlimited novelties, but the only way to maintain quality and keep things scratch made is to do less and do it well.
RK: Has there been a benefit to starting your business in the New England area that you don’t think you’d get elsewhere?
D.J: New England has the highest consumption of ice cream! I think it is wishful thinking…
R.K: What would you love to see in the New England food and wellness scene that you don’t now?
D.J: The Boston area is full of educated eaters. I would love to see even more people learn about where food comes from, and truly support local farmers, producers, and sellers. Food is such an important part of life, our health, and our environment. We should invest in good, thoughtful food before almost anything else.
R.K: What other local food and wellness brands are you a fan of?
D.J: I am fortunate to be surrounded by thoughtful and talented makers. We try to partner with some of our favorites. I probably get the most excited about our CSA at Waltham Community Farms. It is so great to be able to educate my kids and eat fresh, locally grown produce.
I am a big fan of Follain, a local natural body products boutique in the South end and Beacon Hill. Nectar and Green is an amazing local almond milk company that delivers fresh pressed almond milks. I am a regular at Whole Heart Provisions. Their bowls are complex, tasty, and make you feel like a million bucks. And I might as well have a Kombucha IV. I love Katalyst.
R.K: Who has been the greatest influence or role model in starting your business?
D.J: My family. My parents were entrepreneurs and worked super hard. They instilled work ethic and determination. They also fueled my love of food. My kids continue to be my inspiration for flavors and integrity behind sourcing.
R.K: What’s your favorite quotes or business mantra?
D.J: “Don’t ask why healthy food is expensive. Ask why junk food is so cheap.” -Mark Bittman
R.K: Where do you hope to see your brand in the next two years?
D.J: I would love to see FoMu more accessible to folks who care about food. Whether it be a FoMu café, pint in the grocery store, or online gift.
R.K: What advice would you give someone looking to start their own wellness or food business?
D.J: Be modest, have passion, and get ready to work. Great things don’t happen overnight, and the best lessons will be the result of the worst mistakes.
R.K: Here at The W.E.L.L. Summit we like to say “Your vibe attracts your tribe.” How would you describe your vibe?
D.J: Honest. Natural. Thoughtful.